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Letters to Nature
Nature 373, 146 - 148 (12 January 1995); doi:10.1038/373146a0

Structural engineering of an orb-spider's web

Lorraine H. Lin*, Donald T. Edmonds* & Fritz Vollrath§

*Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK
Ove Arup and Partners, 13 Fitzroy Street, London W1P 6BQ, UK
Department of Zoology, University of Aarhus, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
§Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK

THE silk of spiders first evolved 400 million years ago and orb webs emerged 180 million years ago1, 2; present-day spiders' webs are structures efficiently engineered by nature. The planar orb web of the garden spider Araneus diadematus has evolved with the prime function of capturing fast-moving and, on a relative scale, massive insects. We have now analysed the structural engineering of a complete web, using computer modelling, to incorporate the measured time-dependent stress–strain characteristics of the two chief types of web silk. With this model we unexpectedly discovered that aerodynamic damping plays a crucial role in prey capture, an observation that we confirmed in laboratory experiments on real webs.

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